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Matlama dare to dream again



Luciah Phahla

Maseru – Maybe a change of voice was all Matlama needed.
Just a month after appearing to have lost their season ‘Tse Putsoa’ are on cloud nine thanks to last Saturday’s 1-0 win over Bantu at Setsoto Stadium that has Matlama fans daring to dream once more.

It was the perfect start to Seephephe “Mochini” Matete’s reign as ‘Tse Putsoa’ coach and whatever he said worked.
Matlama played with a swagger comparable to last season when they came within a point of winning the Vodacom Premier League.

For Matete the most important issue to fix when he took over at the beginning of December with Matlama having one win in five matches was to work on the players’ mental strength and reignite their “love of football”.

“The players should know why they are playing,” a satisfied Matete said after watching his charges defeat their visitors from Mafeteng. “You could see there was no discipline (when I arrived), they did not have love for football and they didn’t know what they were playing for,” he added.

“They were fighting saying supporters were not supporting them well. (But) they have to play for their team. I did not start well because I started at Christmas but I begged the players to come to training while they were still on their holidays and they did come.”
Matlama’s new-found commitment to the cause carried over onto the Setsoto pitch.

Tactically, Matete opted for a lone striker using last season’s top scorer Motebang Sera as his main target-man.
The strategy didn’t bring immediate dividends.

In the first half Matlama failed to create clear-cut chances and instead it was Bantu who fashioned good openings but couldn’t find a way past Tse Putsoa goalkeeper Monaheng Ramalefane.
Matlama’s fortunes changed in the second half as they returned a more refreshed side. Matete added more firepower upfront with Phafa Tšosane moving further forward to support Sera while Mabuti Potloane dropped deep in the midfield.

It was an inspired change. Soon after the restart Matlama defender Michael Mireku embarked on a solo run, dribbling past Bantu’s defence, before he crossed to an unmarked Tšosane who made no mistake with a well-placed finish from just outside the box.

Mireku then continued his man-of-the-match performance by helping Matlama secure a hard-fought clean-sheet.
Matete, though, reserved his highest praises for Matlama’s attack for persevering after firing blanks at the end of 2016.
“We are always working on finishing,” Matete said.
“A player will miss two or three chances and score one, it happens in football. But, the most important thing is to arrive in the opponent’s box and the fact that they got into Bantu’s box is good for us,” he said.

‘Tse Putsoa’ still remained seventh but, with 20 points, they are now seven points off first place.
While Matlama joyously celebrated, Bantu coach, James Madidilane, was left to rue missed chances.
Madidilane blamed a lack of communication amongst his players and admitted ‘A Matšo Matebele’ are now under pressure to maintain their position on top of the Vodacom Premier League.

Bantu, on 27 points, still lead the standings, one point ahead of Lioli and Kick4Life. But, the margin for error has disappeared.
“It was a lack of communication between our players (that led to Matlama’s goal),” Madidilane said.

“We dominated but we have to give credit to Matlama, they played well. Looking at the chances we created, we should have scored more and buried the game in the first half. We didn’t take our chances and Matlama made it very difficult for us.”
He added: “It is worse that we are number one (in the league). Now every team that comes to play us is a war. We have to make sure we win the next game.”
Observations from Matlama versus Bantu:
Saturday’s clash between Matlama and Bantu was a fabulous start to the Vodacom Premier League year as both teams produced a thoroughly entertaining affair at Setsoto.

In the end the game was decided by a cross from out wide which is how football is: crosses and set-pieces account for over two-thirds of all goals scored.  However, the cross didn’t come from a winger; instead, it resulted from a marauding run by a central defender in Matlama’s Michael Mireku.

It was a feature of Saturday’s game that not once did a wide player from either side attack their defender and get to the by-line to cross the ball. Instead, all wingers on show continually elected to cut back inside into traffic.

Perhaps this was a tactic but it probably speaks to a wider problem in local football of wingers no longer attacking fullbacks and getting crosses into the box.  This may explain the lack of goals this season — all 14 teams in the top-flight are averaging less than two goals per game — and it translates to the national team Likuena as well.

The Chuku effect
Peter “Chuku” Moloisane was Bantu’s most dangerous outlet, especially in the opening stages of the game. He started on the left wing and he gave Matlama rightback Mohai Mohai fits.
However, around the 30 minute mark, Moloisane switched flanks with Litšepe Marabe and Bantu began to lose the impetus they had in attack.

It was a curious decision from Bantu coach James Madidilane because until that point the Mafeteng side were having joy with Moloisane on the left and Marabe on the right.
Bantu’s reduced threat from the flanks was one of the reasons Matlama were able to force their way into the game.

Numerous times in the game there was no noticeable structure from both teams and the fact Matlama midfielders Relebohile Mabone and Mabuti Potloane held their position in the centre of the park was probably the deciding factor in the end.

Both teams, especially Bantu, were too eager to interchange positions on the field. It made the game overly random at times, especially in the second half when Bantu went all-out on attack in search of an equaliser while Matlama defended desperately and reverted to long balls forward to relieve pressure.

Prospects going forward
Things are a bit rosier for Matlama now than they were last week and they can approach Sunday’s game against Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) with confidence.
After LMPS they host Liphakoe and Butha-Buthe Warriors and realistically Matlama can hope for nine points from their next three games.  If Matlama play with the same intensity they displayed against Bantu they can secure maximum points.

Matlama’s next three games:
15/01/17: LMPS v Matlama
22/01/17: Matlama v Liphakoe
29/01/17: Matlama v Butha-Buthe Warriors

Bantu’s slate of games for the rest of January is similarly decent, on paper.  ‘A Matšo Matebele’ face the bottom three, Likhopo, Butha-Buthe Warriors and Rovers, in their next three games and would be disappointed if they don’t find themselves still top of the Vodacom premiership at the end of the month.

Bantu’s next three games:
15/01/17: Bantu v Likhopo
21/01/17: Butha-Buthe Warriors v Bantu
28/01/17: Rovers v Bantu

Lack of security
Although both sets of supporters were impeccably behaved during a beautiful afternoon of football, it was still a concern to see such little security on show.

After the game, fans easily invaded the pitch with players and club officials still on the field. This is concerning considering the incidents of crowd violence that blighted the opening months of the season and saw the death of a fan. Security at grounds is still not being taken seriously enough by clubs and the Premier League.

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Mohlolo rescues point for LDF Ladies



A last-gasp strike by Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Ladies striker ‘Maseriti Mohlolo rescued a point for the Women’s Super League (WSL) champions against Malawi’s Ntopwa in the opener of their CAF Women’s Champions League COSAFA Qualifiers yesterday.

Mohlolo’s goal keeps LDF Ladies in contention to progress to the next round with two teams from the four-team group set to qualify for the semi-finals.

Although LDF Ladies were not outplayed in the game, they missed many chances and their set-pieces left a lot to be desired.
Maybe that can be attributed to a last minute coaching change that saw Pule Khojane replace Lengana Nkhethoa as head coach of a side that won the WSL unbeaten last season.

Speaking after the game, Khojane said even though he realised early on that the Malawian team were tough physically, he still wanted LDF Ladies to play their normal passing game.
In the end, Khojane was left to lament the number of chances his side created but couldn’t convert.
Khojane said that will be a point of emphasis before LDF Ladies step onto the field again tomorrow against Botswana’s Double Action.
Tomorrow’s tie is probably a must-win with the group’s other team being defending champions Green Buffaloes of Zambia and LDF Ladies will need to convert their chances.

“We play with four at the back but with two attacking full backs, most of the time if a team plays long balls like (Ntopwa) we struggle a lot but we don’t change our game. We want to play; we want to go forward.
“That’s why sometimes we made a lot of mistakes when the ball was played high behind our backs but we still wanted to play our game and win. We were just unfortunate not to score more goals but we were playing (well),” Khojane said.

LDF conceded a late goal in the first half and were perhaps lucky to go into the half time break just a goal down.
Before Ntopwa took the lead they were awarded a penalty for a reckless foul in the box but they missed the chance to open the scoring.
LDF recovered in the second that but could not find a way into the goals.

It looked as if Lesotho’s representatives at the regional showpiece would begin their campaign with a defeat. However, Mohlolo rescued the Lesotho champions when she latched onto a poor back pass from a defender. She stole the ball and levelled matters with less than three minutes to go.
There was no time for the LDF to get a winner and they had to settle for a point in their opening group game.
They will now be looking to improve and sharpen their scoring boots for tomorrow’s showdown against Double Action of Botswana.

LDF Ladies fixtures:
August 30
LDF Ladies 1-1 Ntopwa
Double Action vs. LDF Ladies
Green Buffaloes vs. LDF Ladies

Tlalane Phahla

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Makepe quits Likuena duty



Likuena captain Basia Makepe has retired from international football after leading the senior national team to silver at the recent COSAFA Cup tournament held in Durban, South Africa.
This was the first time since 2000 that Likuena had reached the final of the regional tournament where they lost 1-0 to Zambia.

The Leribe born defender will go down as one of the most decorated defenders in the country having represented his country 87 times and winning several accolades in the process.

Makepe’s leadership skills were spotted from a young age, where he was appointed captain of the national U-20 team, Makoanyane XI by Leslie Notši.
He led by example as Makoanyane XI qualified for the CAF Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations in 2011, which in those days was knowns as the African Youth Championship, where the side eliminated countries like Mozambique, South Africa and Kenya to qualify for the tournament.

Makepe won his first Likuena cap in a 2-1 victory over Eswatini during an international friendly match played at Setsoto Stadium in October 2012 and went on to make the squad for the 2013 COSAFA Cup in Zambia.
However, Makepe was an unused substitute at the tournament as Notši went for the tried and tested defenders such as Moitheri Ntobo, Tlali Maile and Thabo Masualle as Likuena reached the semi-finals.

He would later be appointed the Likuena captain as coach Moses Maliehe went for a younger generation at the 2016 COSAFA Cup in Namibia, where Likuena won all their group stage matches but were eliminated in the quarterfinals by the Shakes Mashaba-coached Bafana Bafana.
Makepe has not only enjoyed success with the national team but won several domestic trophies at Lioli, where he was also handed the captaincy after joining from boyhood club and now defunct Joy FC.

After leaving Lioli, he joined the police outfit, LMPS FC, where he is employed as a police officer and believes he still has a few years left in his tank playing for Simunye, as the police outfit is affectionately known.

“I think I have had a career that you can say was decent and can be accepted as satisfying to the football fraternity,” Makepe said.

“For me I can say it was a good career that has had challenges here and there as well as successes here and there, which started way back with the Under-20 team.

“With Makoanyane XI, we became the second team to qualify for the Africa Youth Championship and fortunately I had the honour of being the captain of that team.”

The 32-year-old, who has come up against the best forwards on the continent from the young Mohamed Salah during the 2011 Under-20 Africa Youth Championship to the likes of Victor Osimhen, Riyad Mahrez, has singled out former Burkina Faso striker Jonathan Pitroipa as the most troublesome opponent he has faced.

“I have come up against the best from this continent from the likes of Salah and others, but I think Pitroipa of Burkina Faso was the most troublesome forward I have come up against,” he said.

“I think the successes with the senior team especially as the captain are many having reached the COSAFA semi-finals a number of times with Likuena and twice going unbeaten in the group stage in Zambia 2013 and Namibia 2016 respectively.

“Being the captain of the team was the cherry on top and getting bronze medal in 2018. I end my chapter with Likuena having played a role in helping the team get to the final for the first time in 23 years,” he said.

Makepe admitted that the 2016 edition of the COSAFA tournament was very special for him as it was the first he captained the side and they won all their group stage matches.

“The COSAFA tournament in Namibia in 2016 stands out for me especially that game against South Africa, which unfortunately we lost on penalties, but it was a good tournament overall,” he said.

“All in all, I think it was a very satisfying career with the national team though you always want more as a player. I’m happy to bow out having helped Likuena re-write history. It’s a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.

“I’m very grateful to all who have supported me throughout my career, my teammates, coaches, administrators and the supporters, who were always by our side and of course the Lesotho Football Association for giving me the opportunities to lead the national team,” he said.

Mikia Kalati

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Notši picks squad for Ivory Coast tie



Lesotho interim coach Leslie Notši has named a provisional 27-man squad for the side’s final 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against Ivory Coast which is scheduled for September 9.
By virtue of being the hosts of next year’s showpiece, Ivory Coast have already qualified for the tournament while Likuena no longer have a chance of joining them after back-to-back defeats with Zambia in June.

With nothing to play with but pride, Likuena can draw inspiration from their performance when the sides met in their first Group H encounter last June which ended in a goalless draw.
The match was played in Soweto and Lesotho’s memorably dogged display against their much more fancied opponents is something Notši’s charges can look to for inspiration.

Several new faces could feature in that return game in Ivory Coast.
Fresh off last month’s COSAFA Cup final display, Notši has called up some fresh blood to bolster the squad such as Khubetsoana Kamela, Tšeliso Botsane and Teboho Letsema who have each represented Lesotho’s junior teams but are yet to make the leap to the senior side.

Notši’s squad also includes the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) trio of Morena Moloi, Lebesa Lebesa and Victor Ferreira who have been called up to the national team set-up for the first time in their careers.
The most surprising inclusion is perhaps that of Ferreira who spent the majority of last season making cameo appearances from the LDF substitutes’ bench.

Speaking with LEFA’s media team, Notši said the new faces are intended to give him depth going into the 2024 African Nations Championships (CHAN) qualifiers which start in September and are reserved only for locally based players.
It means the handful of Likuena players plying their trade outside the country will be ineligible to play. The first round of the 2024 CHAN qualifiers is set to begin from September 22 to 24.

“We all know that AFCON qualification is out of our reach and the bigger picture is to prepare the team for the CHAN qualifiers, which are coming very soon,” Notši said.
“Most of these boys have come through the ranks playing for our junior national team and it’s the association’s investment that needs to be given a chance to grow,” the Lesotho mentor added.

The 27-man Likuena squad will be trimmed down to a manageable size towards the side’s departure to Ivory Coast, but the core of the players that went to the COSAFA Cup in July are expected to retain their places in the team.
Likuena have a busy schedule ahead with the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers also in the pipeline this year. Notši needs to have as strong a team as possible to compete in all the competitions.

Likuena provisional squad:
Sekhoane Moerane, Teboho Ratibisi, Mosoeu Seahlolo.
Rethabile Senkoto, Motlomelo Mkhwanazi, Mohlomi Makhetha, Rethabile Mokokoane, Rethabile Rasethuntša, Lebesa Lebesa, ‘Mellere Lebetša.
Lisema Lebokollane, Khubetsoana Kamele, Tšeliso Botsane, Lehlohonolo Fothoane, Thabo Lesaoana, Tumelo Makha, Koenehelo Mothala, Tšepang Sefali, Victor Ferreira, Tshwarelo Bereng, Teboho Letsema, Neo Mokhachance, Tšepo Toloane, Morena Moloi.
Thabiso Mari, Jane Thabantšo, Motebang Sera, Katleho Makateng.

Tlalane Phahla

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